Bonne visite sur ce blog consacré au cinéma dans sa diversité, et en particulier sur le cinéma d'horreur et de fantastique C'est un peu mon défouloir où je cloque tout ce qui me passe par la tête (et je tiens à préciser que le blog est en perpétuel changement)
A story still stuck on its first draft, Vanishing on 7th Street is an intriguing concept that never fully develops into a great film. Director Brad Anderson is responsible for impressive slow-burn horror-thrillers like Session 9 and The Machinist, but those films centered on fascinating characters. Vanishing instead forms around its premise, leaving the core of the film curiously insubstantial. Such as it is, the story deals with the few survivors of a world-wide event that disappears the majority of the population instantly, leaving only their clothes. Among the few survivors are Luke (Hayden Christensen), Rosemary (Thandie Newton), Paul (John Leguizamo), and James (Jacob Latimore). In their new apocalyptic surroundings, they must avoid the threat of ghostly shadows that can kill them with one touch.
Although the film wants to evoke Kiyoshi Kurosawa's neo-classic Pulse, the characters' constant search for light and avoidance of shadow more closely resembles the 2003 misfire Darkness Falls, which featured endless scenes of people screaming at each other to "Stay in the light!" That film got old fast, and despite Anderson's efforts, Vanishing similarly turns repetitive. The opening of the film opens with a tantalizing look at a completely empty city, but the budget keeps the characters stuck in exactly one location, a bar, and most scenes feature someone scrambling for a flashlight or battery while fluorescents flicker ominously. Beyond the light, the spirits in the dark slink toward the heroes, moving with that languid pace that seems to be the speed of all horror movie monsters. Slow and implacable.
Why is all this happening? No one knows, but they know they need to escape somehow. In one effective set-piece, Paul and James separate, and Paul finds his way down to the sewers below the bar. Calling this route unwise would be underselling the idiocy, but Paul's likable enough to keep the circumstance frightening instead of infuriating. However, that's more a testament to John Leguizamo's natural charisma. His character, like the rest of the film's cast, lacks any sense of depth, existing as adjectives instead of people. Paul is kind. Luke is bitter. Rosemary is maternal. The film offers little of who they were before the plague, and their actions lack for anything beyond the most basic of character arcs.
This places too much of a burden on the style and concept, hobbling the film's momentum. Sure, the style works, with Anderson now and always a natural director of horror. His use of deep blacks and crisp, elegant camerawork give him an edge over most horror directors. Additionally, the bits of information offered after the initial catastrophe points to a world in which the days keep growing shorter, and more people disappear every day, and the threat of death becomes more and more inescapable. These details grant Vanishing an allegorical edge, in which the fantasy world becomes a microcosm of...hell, everything, in a way. Life, death, old age and new generations.
Where the film shorter, or even an hour-long TV feature, it may have been able to coast on those qualities. There's a Twilight Zone feel to its small cast and high concept, reminiscent of less moralistic, more open-ended episodes like "The Odyssey of Flight 33." I will admit, I enjoy the film referencing the mystery of Roanoke Island. For those unfamiliar, the first colony on the American island of Roanoke inexplicably vanished in 1587. The only clue to their disappearance was a single world carved on a tree: Croatoan. The word most likely meant that the settlers boated to nearby Hatteras Island, which the settlers called Croatoan Island, but ignore that. Let the word linger. Say it aloud, the way that Hindus say "Om" before their prayers. Croatoan. Croatoan. Don't think about what it means. Think about all that it could mean.